2015 Chennai Floods Which Took 421 Lives Was A ‘Man-Made Disaster’: CAG

The Logical Indian Crew Tamil Nadu

July 13th, 2018 / 6:16 PM

Man-made disaster

Image Credits: The Indian Express, Quint

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in the latest report held the Tamil Nadu government responsible for the Chennai Floods 2015 and termed it a ‘man-made’ disaster. The flood which took lives of 421 people was termed ‘natural disaster’ by the TN government. 

The CAG report, ‘Flood management and response in Chennai and its suburban areas’, was tabled by the AIADMK government on Monday, reported The Hindu. Though the report was filed in March 2016, it was not tabled in the Assembly and the opposition had raised the issue during last budget session.

The report states that the disaster could have been avoided if the Public Works Department (PwD) had taken precautionary measures as per the Central Water Commission’s (CWC) guidelines on dam safety. According to The New Indian Express, PWD’s Water Resources Department (WRD) failed to revise Compendium of Rules of Regulation of Chembarambakkam Tank after 23 years of its installation. They say that no lessons were learnt from the 2005 floods.

The report stated that indiscriminate water flow from the Chembarambakkam tank, in excess of inflows burdened the Adyar river, resulting in floods in the city and its suburbs’.

Different claims

The WRD had claimed that there was necessary supervision mechanism in place but the CAG report found no such thing. The WRD had the opportunity to store 0.268 thousand million cubic feet (tmc) more when the discharge was increased from 12,000 cusecs to 20,960 cusecs.

CAG says that the water flow could have been maintained at 12,000 cusecs for six hours. This indiscriminate discharge was done to save a patta land allowed in the foreshore from drowning.

“The indiscriminate discharge of water in excess of inflow took place… as a result, the burden on Adyar river was more leading to a massive flood in Chennai and suburban areas. Though a watchful supervision was in place as claimed by WRD, it could not be even ensured that total outflow from Chembarambakkam Tank did not exceed the inflow for 13 hours as no schedule for gate opening was available,” the report explained, reported The New Indian Express.

The discharge of water at 29,000 cusecs continuously for 21 hours on December 1 and 2 into the Adyar river, along with surplus water from upstream tanks and catchment areas, caused a huge flow of flood waters into the river. The CAG also accused WRD of not desilting the river.

“This implies that due to nonensuring of discharge of water in a sustained manner, the catastrophe that had happened during North-East Monsoon 2015 may be categorised as a man-made disaster as per CWC Guidelines.” The report recommended updating of Compendium of Rules of regulation of Chembarambakkam Tank and fixing responsibility on officials for failure to follow CWC guidelines.

According to Compendium of Rules for Regulated Tanks, WRD should store water at the reservoir at the full level in December, and it also does not allow private patta land inside water spread area.

Chennai Flood 2015

The catastrophic flooding in Chennai was the result of the heaviest rain in several decades, which forced authorities to release a massive 30,000 cusecs from the Chembarambakkam reservoir into the Adyar river over two days, causing it to flood its banks and submerge neighbourhoods on both sides. It did not help that the Adyar’s stream is not very deep or wide, and its banks have been heavily encroached upon over the years. Chennai received over 300 mm of rainfall in those few days, enough to fill up a one-foot tall bucket kept in the open. That is a lot for Chennai — it was three-quarters of its average rainfall of the entire monsoon.

Similarly, Mumbai is now reeling under flood which has led to disruption in rail and road traffic. Daily lives have come to a standstill to the extent that Mumbai ‘dabbawalas’ have suspended their delivery system. 1.84 crore people are affected every year by Mumbai’s waterlogging. Thousands of crores are spent every year to prevent such a situation yet, the flood seems inevitable.


Written by : Poorbita Bagchi

Edited by : Abhinav Joshi

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